The British Government has pledged its readiness to return Nigeria’s stolen wealth hidden in the United Kingdom.
Speaking in Abuja after signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Nigeria and the UK, British Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Goodwill, said his country was committed to the return of all funds looted from Nigeria.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) signed on behalf of the federal government while Goodwill signed for the UK.
The signing of the MoU was a follow up to the agreement reached at the London anti-corruption summit held in the UK last May.
The MoU centred on modalities for the return of Nigerian stolen assets.
Speaking at the exercise, which took place at the Ministry of Justice, Goodwill stated that the MoU provided the mechanism by which monies could be returned.
According to him, there is no safe place for stolen assets in the UK any longer.
He explained that the ability to recover and return the previously looted funds would discourage future attempts to steal.
Goodwill said: “We are keen to do this as soon as the necessary legal process allow. As outlined at the summit, we would be taking steps to accelerate the procedures for identification and confiscation of illegally acquired assets.
“We are committed, as is Nigeria, to ensure that beneficial ownership of assets is made available to relevant authorities so they know who the real owners are, of assets held in the UK.
“Our ability to recover and return stolen assets should send a clear message to all who may seek to habour such assets that there is no safe haven in the UK.”
He said that 40 jurisdictions including British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies announced that they would automatically share beneficial ownership information relating to companies, trusts, foundations, shell companies and other relevant entities and legal arrangements.
In his response, the AGF stated that the MoU reflected the desire and willingness of both countries to continue cooperation and mutual support in the responsible and transparent return of all recovered assets.
He stated the objectives of the MoU to include: the fact that the processes of returning stolen assets was a partnership recognising the interest of both countries and based on mutual understanding, confidence and trust;
“That both countries recognised that they have a mutual interest in ensuring that returned assets are not at risk of being misappropriated again and that both countries recognised they have obligations towards their own citizens for providing such assurances; That both countries recognised the importance of ensuring that the highest possible standard of transparency and accountability are applied for the return of assets.”